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You’re missing the full story on medical cannabis

We’d all like to think that cannabis is a potential solution for specific, difficult-to-treat medical conditions – such as neuropathic pain or inflammatory disease – for which we lack ideal treatments. After all, it would be poetic if nature’s wisdom provided the ideal medicine we have not yet designed ourselves. That may be why the level of hype, hope, anger and backlash around medical cannabis in popular culture has reached a feverish pitch – but the truth is more prosaic than poetic.

Despite anecdotal reports otherwise, data from a growing number of peer-reviewed studies show that the whole-plant cannabis accessible to researchers does not perform consistently as a viable treatment for specific conditions. Furthermore, mainstream cannabis culture seems to proclaim the notion that cannabis is a panacea, pushing public perception of its efficacy far beyond what science has validated. Sorry to be buzzkills (pun intended), but the term herbal cannabis describes a class of plants, not a tailored therapy for a particular indication or a group of indications. This problem is compounded by the barriers patients and researchers face in accessing tailored cannabis varieties with diverse – and perhaps questionable – chemistry.

As we see it, there are two main paths that should be pursued in parallel by the research community to realize the full potential and promise of cannabinoids as legitimate medicine. Both will be productive as our understanding of the human endocannabinoid system (ECS) continues to grow through dedicated research. One is modifying isolated plant-derived and semi-synthetic cannabinoid compounds that can be developed into medicines to target the ECS. Another, which we’ll explore in more detail here, breeding whole plants for more precisely targeted combinations of compounds to increase their therapeutic utility.

Given the types of whole plant cannabis that are widely available around the world today, writing a prescription that reads “cannabis” is about as specific as writing a prescription for “pills”; yet, it doesn’t need to be this way. It’s possible to breed plants that yield tailored ratios of very diverse compounds and therefore, it’s possible to imagine a time when cannabis plants consistently produce material that synergistically serves as effective and safe medicines.

When it comes to adapting cannabis for medical use, it is important to distinguish the generic term from carefully-tailored and standardized “cultivars” (cultivated-varieties) or “chemovars” (chemical-varieties) with well-characterized and tested phytochemical profiles. Compared to other compounds, individual phytocannabinoids (cannabinoid compounds from plants) tend to act very differently on our bodies’ ECS. Some even cause seemingly opposite effects. Moreover, like many treatments, some phytocannabinoids may have a biphasic dosing effect, meaning their effects at higher doses may be the opposite of their effects at lower doses. This is true, for example, of two of the best-known cannabinoids. At low doses, THC may be a potent anti-depressant known to induce hyperphagia (over-eating or “munchies”), but at higher doses, it can exacerbate depression, may stimulate anxiety, and triggers hypophagia (loss of appetite). Like THC, CBD’s mode of operation is also often biphasic. To make matters even more complex, these compounds have been shown to work differently when combined than when isolated and tested individually.

Scientific inquiry in the cannabinoid field has consistently been motivated by asking “what if,” and we must continue to ask that question.

What if plants were bred such that they contained specific compounds in specific quantities and tailored ratios to hit the right disease targets with minimal adverse effects?

We’re now able to advance such targeting by enhancing our understanding of why our bodies respond to cannabinoids at all. Early studies of whole plant cannabis led to the 1964 discovery of tetrahydrocannabinol. That eventually helped us identify interactions with the ECS, which is present in every organ and affects nearly all physiological processes. These studies during the past 50+ years have laid the foundation for cannabinoid medicine.

Prominent scientists from the US National Institutes of Health focused on ECS function have summed up well what is so exciting about the system: “…modulating the ECS holds therapeutic promise for practically all human diseases.” To fully harness its potential, we must look beyond what we know from cannabis – building upon that foundation and knowledge – and identify the safest and most efficient means to modulate the ECS to achieve optimal therapeutic results.

Efforts to transform herbal cannabis into an effective medicine have taken significant strides in recent years, as evidenced by scientific publications highlighting the pharmacological properties of novel cannabis chemovars. This description of herbal cannabis as particular chemovars is critical if it is to be considered as legitimate therapy by physicians.

A group of Canadian doctors recently warned that there is little to no research supporting the efficacy of cannabis, which is very disturbing for those of us who know there is great value in modulating ECS activity to address specific diseases and other afflictions. Our disappointment is not directed at the physicians; rather, we are frustrated that the herbal cannabis used for almost all published studies has made such conclusions inevitable. We can unlock this potential phytochemical diversity through a directed breeding program. Fortunately, innovative breeding work is now taking place that will increase the likelihood that study results will align with the hopes and expectations of those looking for cannabis-derived treatment options.

However, the possibilities don’t stop with plants. While we breed specific, targeted cannabis chemovars, we should ask what if we also modified cannabis-derived compounds to more accurately and effectively hit challenging disease targets as has been done for centuries with other remarkable plants?

This article was co-authored by Gary Hiller, President and COO of Phytecs, Inc.

Joseph (Yossi) Tam, DMD, PhD is Director of the Multidisciplinary Center for Cannabinoid Research at Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Read the source article at The Blogs

News

A higher calling: How Israeli marijuana research changed the world

As much of the world debates how to address marijuana use, the vast majority of American states have legalized it or allow it for medical purposes. Global pharmaceutical companies and hospitals seeking effective treatments using cannabis should look to Professor Raphael Mechoulam, a scientist at Hebrew University. Mechoulam, a pioneer in the field, was the first to isolate, analyze and synthesize the major psychoactive and non-psychoactive compounds in cannabis and has developed a number of revolutionary marijuana-related treatments.

Today, roughly 147 million people use medical marijuana for effective relief of various ailments, including AIDS, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, cancer treatment side effects and Parkinson’s. Experts believe these numbers will grow exponentially in the coming years, and Mechoulam is now widely recognized as the godfather of medical marijuana, the high priest of his field.

Mechoulam began studying marijuana as a young professor in 1964. He learned that researchers had isolated morphine from opium over 150 years ago and cocaine from coca leaves a century prior, yet no one had tried to understand cannabis and its psychoactive and non-psychoactive ingredients. Mechoulam and his colleagues became their own test subjects and after a few months not only understood marijuana’s ingredients, but found a way to test its medicinal properties.

Not long after Mechoulam’s human experiments with THC, the major psychoactive compound in cannabis, he applied for a grant with the US National Institutes of Health, but the response was not exactly welcoming. “Cannabis is not important to us,” he recalls an NIH official telling him. “When you have something relevant, call us… marijuana is not an American problem.” At the time, not a single US lab was working on it.

In 1965, the NIH changed its tune at the insistence of a member of Congress, who was concerned about his son’s recreational use. Mechoulam had just isolated THC for the first time and discovered its structure. Dan Efron, head of pharmacology at the National Institute of Mental Health, promised Mechoulam financial support for further research. In return, the professor sent the NIH the entire world supply of synthesized THC, about 10 grams, which the NIH used to conduct many of the original cannabis experiments in the United States.

Today, thanks to Mechoulam’s research over the past half century, doctors around the world prescribe marijuana for a variety of disorders. Mechoulam’s work catapulted Israel to the top of the field of medical marijuana testing.

“Israel is the marijuana research capital of the world,” says Dr. Sanjay Gupta, chief medical correspondent for the Health, Medical & Wellness unit at CNN.

Globally, there is an obstacle to wider acceptance of medical marijuana: doctors themselves. Mechoulam believes that use of the drug is not standard practice because most physicians are not yet familiar with it and because most doctors are uncomfortable with a medicine that can be consumed by inhaling its smoke. But Mechoulam has played a major role in dispelling misconceptions about cannabis.

“The problem is that for many years, marijuana was put on the [same] scale as cocaine and morphine,” Mechoulam says. “This is not fair. All drugs, starting from aspirin to valium, [have] side effects. One has to know how to use them.”

Until recently, pharmaceutical companies weren’t enthusiastic about applied research on the drug. The legal ambiguity around cannabis and the difficulty of filing patents on a plant that has existed forever limit their ability to make money.

“It is still widely believed that cannabinoids are drugs and they make you crazy, make you mad, that they don’t have therapeutic value and they are addictive,” says Manuel Guzman, a professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Complutense University in Madrid and one of the world’s leading scientists studying the effects of cannabis on cancer cells. But, according to Guzman, that’s “based on ignorance. Knowledge takes time to get absorbed by society and the clinical community.”

At the federal level, cannabis is still illegal in the United States, which prevents serious and ongoing research on THC and on CBD, the non-psychoactive compound in cannabis. But 23 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for some medical uses, and according to polling data, a majority of Americans now favor legalization for recreational purposes. Elsewhere in the world, there is even more momentum. Israel, Canada and the Netherlands all have medical marijuana programs. Uruguay has legalized pot and Portugal has decriminalized the drug.

All of this gives reason for optimism about the future of medical marijuana research, according to Mechoulam, who is now investigating the drug’s effects on asthma. It is clear that his groundbreaking life’s work and “never, ever give up” attitude are slowly changing the minds of his peers. “If a Nobel Prize was given on cannabis research,” Dr. Guzman says, “Rafi would be the leading candidate.”

The writer is the author of Thou Shalt Innovate: How Israeli Ingenuity Repairs the World (Gefen Publishing) and a senior fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council.

Read the source article at Jpost

News

Bill Nye Says Israel Leading on Medical Marijuana

Bill Nye’s new Netflix show explores Israel’s advances in medical marijuana, which are much more advanced than the United States.

People are getting high in the Holy Land for a good cause.

In a recent episode of “Bill Nye Saves the World” in which Nye explore medical marijuana, he sends a correspondent to Israel for a segment called “How is Israel healing the world with marijuana.”

The episode highlights the progress Israel has made in medical marijuana research, noting that there are significantly fewer regulatory hurdles than in the United States.

The company Tikun Olam operates the largest cannabis farm in Israel, and it’s licensed by the Israeli government. Tikkun Olam CEO Aharon Lutzky explains that the cooperation between the Israeli government and private industry fosters success in finding ways cannabis can help patients struggling with conditions such as cancer, Crohn’s and colitis, PTSD, epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease.

Nye notes that the situation is very different in the U.S. because the Drug Enforcement Agency doesn’t believe cannabis has medical value, and therefore classifies it as a Schedule 1 drug, making it illegal to grow it for the purpose of medical studies.

“It is literally easier to study meth,” Nye claimed.

Israeli organic chemist Raphael Mechoulam was the first to isolate marijuana’s THC compound for scientific study more than 50 years ago. In 1996, Israel began its national medical marijuana program, the first one in the world.

 

Read the source article at The Forward

News

Meet Hebrew University’s top cannabis researcher

Attorney General Jeff Sessions unwittingly has become a key supporter of Israel’s thriving medical marijuana industry. Just ask cannabis researcher Yossi Tam.

Speaking in Palo Alto this week, the Israeli expert on cannabinoids — chemicals that give the cannabis plant its medical and recreational properties — said anti-pot politics in the United States have allowed Israel’s medical marijuana industry to thrive. Israel even has attracted some of the top American researchers, he said.

Israel even has attracted some of the top American researchers, he said. After all, in the U.S., marijuana remains a Schedule 1 drug, alongside heroin and ecstasy, meaning that research is stunted because such substances have “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”

However, in Israel, which is preparing to start issuing export licenses for cannabinoid-based products, cannabis research is flourishing. Tam is focused on how cannabinoids can help patients battle obesity, and he’s also part of a team seeking medicinal uses of cannabis in fighting everything from epilepsy to traumatic brain injury to cancer.

“Israel has become a leader because it was allowed to conduct research, whereas here [in the U.S.] it was stopped,” Tam told J. after his talk, which focused on the science of cannabinoids and how to use them to fight obesity. “Once it will be legal here, then the U.S. will take over like with every other thing.”

Tam is the managing director of the Multidisciplinary Center on Cannabinoid Research at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and he also heads the Obesity and Metabolism Laboratory there.

He spoke Jan. 16 in Palo Alto at the Morgan, Lewis and Bockius law firm, telling an audience of about 50 that medical marijuana was first used in China nearly 5,000 years ago and that synthetic cannabinoids could have an even wider range of curative powers. The talk was presented by the California Israel Chamber of Commerce, American Friends of the Hebrew University and WGD Partners, a Palo Alto-based financial advisory firm.

Recreational use of marijuana is banned in Israel, but medical marijuana is legal there — and Israeli researchers have been focused on the efficacy of cannabinoids in fighting pain and disease for more than 50 years. Meanwhile in the U.S., Sessions has spearheaded a federal drive to keep pot illegal, even as California this year became the eighth state to legalize recreational use of marijuana and more than half the states allow the use of medical marijuana.

Tam works at Hebrew University with Raphael Mechoulam, who in the 1960s first isolated CBD and THC, the two most prominent of the many cannabinoids found in marijuana.

A brochure available at his talk proclaimed: “Join the cannabis revolution: Cannabis is no longer just associated with getting high, but is now tantamount to getting healthy.”

Michael Mitgang, WGD’s managing director, gave a short presentation on the cannabis industry and its growth potential before Tam’s talk, predicting the $8.1 billion U.S. cannabis market in 2017 will balloon to more than $100 billion annually in a few years.

Tam, a former dentist who did postdoctoral work in the U.S. at the National Institutes of Health, said Israeli researchers know their place at the forefront of cannabinoid investigation will be threatened if the U.S. reclassifies marijuana.

“We have a window of opportunity now,” he said. “Let’s see what happens.”

Read the source article at jweekly.com

News

Therapix Biosciences Plans Preclinical Study to Evaluate Opioid-Sparing Effects of Two Innovative Synthetic Cannabinoids

/PRNewswire/ — Therapix Biosciences Ltd. (Nasdaq: TRPX), a specialty clinical-stage pharmaceutical company specializing in the development of cannabinoid-based treatments, executed a non-exclusive material transfer agreement with Yissum, the technology transfer company of The , for two synthetic cannabinoids synthesized by , Ph.D., Professor of medicinal chemistry at the university and Chairman of the Therapix Scientific Advisory Board. Therapix plans to initiate a preclinical study during the fourth quarter to evaluate the opioid-sparing effect of these compounds in a rat model. The opioid overuse epidemic in was recently declared a public health emergency by President . According to Medical Care, prescription opioid overdose, abuse and dependence carries high costs for society with an estimated total economic burden of alone. Nevertheless, for immediate relief of moderate-to-severe acute as well as chronic pain, opioids are frequently the treatment of choice due to their rapid onset and efficacy. However, due to their addictive nature and deleterious adverse events that may lead to lethal outcomes, there is a need to significantly reduce their effective therapeutic dose, Chief Technology Officer at Therapix, said, “To address the opioid issue, Therapix is collaborating with Professor Mechoulam to develop a therapy of innovative cannabinoids and opioids. The study builds upon the innovative work of Professor Mechoulam and seeks to reduce the use of opioids by combining them with proprietary cannabinoid molecules to alleviate pain.” “Based on our research surrounding the effects of the endocannabinoid system and how cannabinoids can play a role in pain relief, our group of research scientists has synthesized cannabinoids with improved binding affinity and target specificity, which do not cause the therapeutically undesirable cannabis psychoactivity,” stated Professor Mechoulam. “In view of their parallel actions in pain, cannabinoids and opioids together may allow the development of a novel therapy that could exhibit a synergistic effect that reduces the therapeutic effective dose of opioids.” , Chief Financial Officer at Therapix, said, “We are privileged to be working with Professor Mechoulam and the in paving the way forward to a potential new therapeutic that may one day help to address this deadly social and medical crisis.” About Therapix Biosciences Ltd.: Therapix Biosciences Ltd. is a specialty clinical-stage pharmaceutical company led by an experienced team of senior executives and scientists. Our focus is creating and enhancing a portfolio of technologies and assets based on cannabinoid pharmaceuticals. With this focus, the Company is currently engaged in the following drug development programs based on repurposing an FDA approved synthetic cannabinoid (dronabinol): THX-110 and THX-120 for the treatment of Tourette syndrome (TS) and Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA); THX-130 for the treatment of Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI); and THX-150 for the treatment of infectious diseases. Please visit our website for more information at www.therapixbio.com. About Yissum: Yissum is the technology transfer company of the Hebrew University . Founded in 1964, it is the third company of its kind to be established, and serves as a bridge between cutting-edge academic research and a global community of entrepreneurs, investors, and industry. Yissum’s mission is to benefit society by converting extraordinary innovations and transformational technologies into commercial solutions that address our most urgent global challenges. Yissum has registered over 10,000 patents covering 2,800 inventions; licensed over 900 technologies and has spun out more than 125 companies. Yissum’s business partners span the globe and include companies such as Boston Scientific, Google, ICL, Intel , Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Microsoft, Novartis and many more. For further information please visit www.yissum.co.il Forward-Looking Statements: This press release contains forward-looking statements about the Company’s expectations, beliefs, and intentions. Forward-looking statements can be identified by the use of forward-looking words such as “believe”, “expect”, “intend”, “plan”, “may”, “should”, “could”, “might”, “seek”, “target”, “will”, “project”, “forecast”, “continue” or “anticipate” or their negatives or variations of these words or other comparable words or by the fact that these statements do not relate strictly to historical matters. Such forward-looking statements used in this press release include, among other things, references to the clinical and commercial potential of the Company’s product candidates. Actual results could differ from those projected in any forward-looking statements due to numerous factors. Such factors include, among others, our ability to raise the additional funding needed to continue to pursue our business and product development plans, the inherent uncertainties associated with developing new products or technologies, our ability to obtain regulatory approval for our product candidates, our ability to commercialize our product candidates, competition in the industry in which we operate and overall market conditions. Any forward-looking statement in this press release speaks only as of the date of this press release. The Company undertakes no obligation to publicly update or review any forward-looking statement, whether as a result of new information, future developments or otherwise, except as may be required by any applicable securities laws. More detailed information about the risks and uncertainties affecting the Company is contained under the heading “Risk Factors” in Therapix Biosciences Ltd.’s annual report on Form 20-F dated filed with the SEC, which is available on the SEC’s website, www.sec.gov. For further information: Investor Contact: , CFO, Therapix Biosciences, [email protected] Therapix Biosciences Ltd. For further information: +972-3-616-7055 Media Contact: +1-212-825-3210 SOURCE Therapix Biosciences Ltd http://www.therapixbio.com

Read the source article at PR Newswire

Spotlights

Dr. Yossi Tam

Dr. Yossi Tam, D.M.D, Ph.D., heads the Obesity and Metabolism Laboratory at the Hebrew University’s Institute for Drug Research and is Director of the Multidisciplinary Center on Cannabinoid Research. The Multidisciplinary Center is focused on developing cannabinoid-based therapies to alleviate pain, treat traumatic brain injuries, and to address a broad spectrum of diseases. Dr. Tam, who works closely with Hebrew University Professor Emeritus Raphael Mechoulam, a world leader in the field of cannabis research, serves on the scientific board of Kalytera Therapeutics. Kalytera is developing cannabinoid-like and endocannaboid-like medicines for conditions ranging from osteoporosis to Prader-Willi Syndrome, a genetic disease.

Dr. Tam earned his Ph.D. at Hebrew University and received his D.M.D. from the Faculty of Dental Medicine. He launched his research in the area of bone biology, pursuing this work under the auspices of the Faculty of Dental Medicine and the School of Pharmacy. Dr. Tam explored the clinical phenomenon whereby traumatic brain injury induces a systemic stimulation of bone formation, leading to excessive accumulation of bone. Dr. Tam demonstrated a critical role for the eCB system in regulating bone mass, identifying a novel brain-to-bone pathway. His work was recognized with the prestigious Young Investigator Award by the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research.

Dr. Tam conducted his postdoctoral research fellowship in the U.S. at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), where he examined the biological mechanisms underlying obesity and metabolic syndrome. His research demonstrated the therapeutic potential of the first peripherally restricted, potent and selective CB1 blockers in biological models of obesity/metabolic syndrome. His preclinical findings showed that this class of compounds had strong clinical promise for treating obesity.

Dr. Tam joined the Hebrew University in 2014. His recent research investigates the peripheral eCB system in the development of obesity. His laboratory uses multidisciplinary approaches to study the molecular mechanisms involved in the development of metabolic syndrome. He has won numerous awards for his pioneering work, among these the Jacob Metzner’s Young Investigators Award and the FARE Award from the NIH.

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